Flying Aces Nationals

16th - 19th July 2014, Geneseo, NY

Part 2


The first day of competition flying began with a light breeze blowing along the length of the field, away from the hangars and stayed like this all morning. After lunch it got a bit gustier, but still flyable.

Thursday's events included dime scale, modern military, simplified scale, the Thompson race (radial engined racers), the SLOW race and WW1 combat. As usual, the judged scale classes could be flown on any of the three days which meant that picking the best weather would be a key factor to success.

I've been asked a few times how many people compete at the FAC Nats, so this year, by the simple method of finding the highest competitor number listed on the score sheets, I can tell you it was 130. Of course they may not all have turned up, but it gives you an idea.

I acted as Clive's mechanic in WW1 combat, one of the first events, with his Sopwith Camel looking promising after a test flight. Unfortunately our flight lasted less than 10 seconds, we were out in the first round. and we couldn't even blame the weather. Such is the lottery of these mass launch events! The winner was Doug Beardsworth with a little 16" span Sopwith Pup built from the Skylake models kit.

Below is a video of a test flight by Doug Beardsworth of his jumbo scale Northrop Gamma, pictured above - many thanks to Clive Gamble for all the excellent flying and launch photos included here.

I got my three official flights with the Dime Scale Ripon fairly early, and was a bit disappointed with the times - all between 40 and 46 seconds. I should really have spent a bit more time working on it and paid more attention to conditions, but I knew I had two other new models to try to trim out, so probably rushed things a bit.

Here is Vance Gilbert's majestic class-winning Giant scale Vikers Nene Viking in action.

Below are a couple of flights by Vance's Giant Scale Curtiss twin Jenny, which would have won the class if he hadn't entered the Nene Viking (you only get a slot for your best placed model). I missed the best flight which was timed at 89 Seconds.

With his missing models now returned to him, here is Enrique Malz launching his Dime scale ONG Sentinal, which finished 4th in class. Incidentally, Dime scale is hugely popular, with 41 entries this year. Tom Hallman won with a Beech Staggerwing and flights of 120, 120 and 79 seconds. Andrew Ricci came second with another Beech Staggerwing and times of 78, 120 and 120 seconds. Couldn't have been closer!

Tom Hallman entered his fine-flying Pulqui in both the modern military and simplified scale classes, which meant he had to make six official flights during the day. Below is one of these flights - the shortest one I think as he got four maxes out of the six.

Here is Tom again putting in an official flight with his new Supermarine Seafire which finished fourth in FAC scale, despite only 10 bonus points (for being low wing).

I gave the Beriev a few tentative flights - it was very nose-heavy, as expected, so I added a lump of white-tack on the tip of the rear stinger. Under power it sort of looked OK, but tended to sideslip and mush when the rubber ran down. Oh well - I'd try again later.

There was a cook-up organised on the field that evening, so no need to head off into town to find something to eat. Again the wind dropped about an hour before dusk, and we had ideal trimming conditions. I had rubber in the King Air in case this happened - two loops of 3/16" rubber in each nacelle.

First glides looked a little steep, so I tweaked up the hinged elevators a touch, and it looked pretty good. Very pleased not to have to add any noseweight. Paul Morris kindly volunteered to be my human stooge, and we started putting on some turns. 150 gave a nice climbing turn to the right. 250 did the same, but higher. 350 turns, more of the same. And so it went on up to 750 turns, by which time it was circling quite a long way up. I was, to put it mildly, over the moon - I couldn't believe it had been that easy

Tom Hallman took the video below when we were up to about 500 winds - a bit of a dodgy transition when the power ran out, but otherwise very pleasing.

As the sun set, a rather different "final flight" ceremony was held. The purpose, as usual , was to remember those modellers who had passed away since the last Nats, but this time, rather than a model attached to helium baloons, a chinese lantern was released for each of those named. It made for a special moment as they drifted slowly up into the darkening sky.


The weather on Friday was magnificent - hardly any wind though it kept changing direction. There were plenty of thermals around if you could catch them. The day's featured scale events included WW2 combat, profile jet catapult, the Greve race (in-line engined racers), low wing military trainer, Golden age combined and the BLUR race. To give you an idea of how good the weather was, I timed one of Clive's embryo endurance flights at six and a half minutes, and it stayed on the field.

I put longer motors in the King Air - 24" loops instead of 19" loops, and typically, the trim completely changed from the previous evening. Now it didn't turn right any more and stalled throughout the flight. I had to push the rudder trim tab hard over and bend the elevators down a touch to get a nice flight pattern. With the trim now looking fairly safe again, I put in my three official flights for Jumbo scale - the best of which was 51 seconds on 1000 winds, which I'm quite happy with for a brand new model. I'm sure there is more to come once I optimise the prop/rubber combination.

Doug Beardsworth entered his jumbo scale Messerschmitt M029 in the combined Golden Age event and finished third. The model is a fine flyer as you can see below.

Below is a video of Wally Farrell's impressive Jumbo scale Miles Sparrowhawk in action.

I really enjoyed being mechanic for Doug Beardsworth in the Greve race. He was flying a beautiful Mr Smoothie built from the Dave Rees plan, and in the perfect conditions it flew amazingly well. We got through the first two rounds fairly comfortably, with the D/T set to bring the model down, getting times of 152 and 282 seconds. For the final round, Doug went for broke and didn't set the D/T. The model climbed gracefully away to a considerable altitude and by the time it came down - still on the field, I clocked it at 335 seconds - so over five and a half minutes. This was enough to win the event.

WW2 Combat is one of the most popular events of the Nats, and this year there were 39 entries. These were whittled down to 20 for round 2, then down to 6 for the final round. With the fine weather conditions, a first round flight of 56 Seconds would have scraped you through to round 2, then you would have needed 82 seconds to make the final round. The winner was Wally Farrell with a P-63 Kingcobra, who managed 131 seconds in round 3.

Tom Hallman won the low wing military trainer event with his lovely Fairchild PT-26, getting three 2 minute maxes. I love this "stained glass window" shot by Clive Gamble.

Here's a great photo by Ronny Gosselin of Bernard Dion flying his amazing giant scale Rutan Voyager.

In the afternoon an unofficial mass launch was held for EDF powered scale models, run by Marty Ritchey. The object was to achieve a target time of 30 seconds. Unfortunately Tom Arnold's F.86 Sabre Dog was the only model to get away successfully, as you can see in the video below, but you've got to love the noise when all the models fire up!

With the increased availability of lightweight off the shelf EDF units for free flight, I can see interest in these models increasing. They are certainly now a practical alternative to Rapier solid fuel motors, which are now impossible to get in the USA.

After a trip to Subway for a quick meal, We had another beautiful calm evening on the field, but activity was fairly light, I think due to the fact that most people had been flying all day in very good conditions anyway. I gave the Beriev another go with 500 winds, which resulted in a nice climb out followed by a mushy stall.

I took off a smidge of tail weight and tried again. Half way through the flight, the detachable tail unit decided to detatch itself, and the model nosed in. In retrospect, I REALLY wish I'd tacked it on with a spot of balsa cement, and not just relied on the magnet and tabs. Anyway, the damage was not too terrible - the radome was smashed, and the longerons behind the cockpit broken, but nothing too difficult to fix. I decided to put it back in the box and mend it when I got back home.


Saturday's events included modern civilian, fiction flyer and mass launches for Goodyear racers, French aircraft and the D-Day commemorative event. The weather was pretty good again, though we got some light drizzle in the afternoon. Not enough to stop people flying though.

I entered the King Air in modern civil, really just to get more experience flying it. Again I was grateful to Paul Morris who patiently stooged for me for the flights. With the FAC rules being what they are, I was only allowed to enter the event if I drew on the undercarriage door outlines - something I hadn't done yet due to lack of time. Rather than draw them on with a marker pen, I decided to apply them temporarily using sliced black tissue strips attached with a glue stick. With approval thus gained, I put in my three flights, which were similar to the previous day, with a best of 50 seconds. With no bonus points awarded for this event I finished well down the field, but it was fun joining in.

As the rain had started to drizzle after lunch, the well supported D-Day event was flown over two rounds rather than three, which meant a heavy cull in round one - just 6 out of 18 survived to take part in round 2, and you needed 75 seconds to get through. The winner was Tom Hallman with his Seafire and a very impressive 149 second flight.

The French mass launch event, organised by the irrepressible Bernard Dion, is always a fun event, and nobody ever knows quite what to expect. This years's was a corker, especially as I was a mechanic, and wasn't entering one of my own models!

Bernard lined everyone up, with mechanics facing their pilots and the models on the floor between them. Then came the command - "pilots move two places to the left but leave the models where they are. Mechanics move two places the other way". Next - model builders had two minutes to explain to the new pilot how to make their proxy model fly. It was pot luck which model you ended up with - Tom Hallman got a catapult glider for instance. Some builders looked understandably nervous about handing over their precious models to somebody else! Another twist was that a target time was set at 13 seconds, and the pilot who got a flight closest to that time would win.

I'm not for a moment suggesting there were any high jinks going on, but when Luc Martin found himself with a peanut scale Caudron Simoun, he asked its builder Rich Zapf how many winds he would suggest to achieve 13 seconds. Rich (keeping a straight face) suggested 1500 turns, which Luc dutifully wound on. Suffice to say he ended up with a 58 second flight. The winner of the event was Peter Kaiteris, flying Doug Beardsworth's Dime scale Arc en Ciel with 480 winds (Doug had suggested 500) and 14 seconds.

As we approached the end of the final day's flying, the drizzle was steady, but still some last minute flights were being put up. One of these was Rich Weber's new fiction flyer, "Miss Mystery". I timed the last flight, which was a max, but unfortunately the model flew away. At least Rich had the satisfaction of winning the class.

The National Warplane Museum, whose airfield is used for the Nats, have a DC-3 "Whisky Seven", which had taken an excursion over to Europe for the D-Day celebrations earlier in the year. On Saturday morning it had flown out to do an airshow and returned during the afternoon, giving us a flyby before landing.

The final action I captured on video was the informal "Hung-Aerion" mass launch you can see below. These strange creatures look to me just like a flock of turkeys staggering into the air. This Dave Stott design, despite its appearance, is legal for the Embryo endurance class. I couldn't resist buying the new EasyBuilt Models kit of the beast to take home with me.

Flying was finished at 5pm, so it was time to pack everything up in the car and head back to the dorms for a shower and a change of clothes. As it was damp, we took a chance and left the canopy up in the hope it would be drier the next morning.

The banquet and prizegiving was at the Quality Inn as usual, and both the food and the company were excellent. There has been some rationalisation of the classes at the Nats, weeding out the less supported ones, and combining others, so that this year we were down to 29. However, with plaques given out down to fifth place, that still means 145 to give out. Grand Champions this time were Tom Hallman for scale and Don DeLoach for non scale. Tom's enormous pile of plaques was most impressive!

As is becoming a tradition, a group of us gathered at the Omega Grille for an enormous breakfast on Sunday morning, to keep the magic going for a bit longer before heading our separate ways. It's always sad saying goodbye and heading back to the real world, knowing it's two years till the next one. It was still raining so there was no chance of getting any last flights in down at the field, but we had to head down there to pack up the now even wetter canopy before heading back to Boston.

As usual on the drive back, there was plenty of time to talk about new projects and potential build lists. I've got two years to learn how to get the best out of the King Air, and see to what I can do (if anything) with the Beriev, otherwise I'll need a new FAC scale model. Due to the limited amount of models I can bring over, I think I need to consider some smaller models that can be entered in multiple classes, like a Goodyear Racer, which can go in the mass launch as well as peanut scale. Whatever I decide, I guarantee there will be plenty of activity on the building board in the coming months.

Some final thoughts: Despite not placing in any class this year, I enjoyed myself immensely - it's a treat to have four days of model flying where the cares of the real world can be forgotten and it is possible to just immerse yourself completely with friends and fellow enthusiasts in this wonderful hobby. The light winds and moderate temperatures helped too of course, and as far as my new models went, getting two out of three to fly wasn't bad. Next time I intend to get them all trimmed before I pack them in the box (yeah, right).

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